Future Emily

There is a saying in my circle when we don’t want to worry about something – we say, “Oh that’s future so-and-so’s problem.”  For instance, if I had a quiz in a few days that I didn’t want to study for, I would say, “That’s not my problem.  That’s Future Emily’s problem.”  And then I’d procrastinate and make Future Emily study for the quiz.  It keeps Present Emily from worrying too much.

One problem I constantly let Future Emily deal with is the increasing debt that Present Emily is accruing.  Med school is expensive people!  And when I say expensive, I mean EXPENSIVE.

The cost of my tuition for one year of med school is just shy of $50,000 (yikes!).  By the time I graduate, I estimate my debt (including debt from undergrad), will be about $250,000.  I definitely won’t be able to start paying it during my residency (which will be at least three years), so by the time I make the first payment on my loans, the amount (with accrued interest) will probably be closer to $300,000, which is a small fortune.

Now, I understand that I am going to have “high earning potential” or whatever, and, yes, I will make a lot of money after that, but $300,000 is a lot of debt to have no matter who you are.  And the cost of a medical education (or any education) is a real problem in our country.

The problem is that all medical students, including myself, have to choose what specialty to pursue at exactly the same time that they have the most debt.  I am currently hoping to go into general internal medicine, which is a primary care field.  Primary care physicians make significantly less money than specialists.

If I choose to go into primary care, I may only make about $150,000 a year.  Now, I say “only” because $150,000 is how much one makes before taxes and malpractice insurance – which doesn’t leave a lot of money for living expenses or loan payments.  If I decide to specialize in say, oncology, I could make closer to $250,000 a year, for only a few years of extra training.

It is really scary for me to hear my professors talk about how they are still working to pay off their loans…and they are OLD, people!  I guess the point I am trying to make is that today, Present Emily had to sit down and do “entrance counseling” to borrow loans for another year.  And she is a little freaked out when it tells her that her debt, as of today, is $82,000, and that with the projected income of a primary care physician, she won’t be able to pay that off in ten years.  And that is just her debt as of today.  What is Future Emily supposed to do when her debt is three times that?!

Sounds like a personal problem, huh?  Well, it is and it isn’t.  The reason that it is my problem AND your problem is that this whole thing gives me (and other medical students) a hard decision to make.  And with the new healthcare system, our country needs primary care physicians more than ever.

Now I’m not 100% sure what kind of specialty I want to go into.  I am seriously considering General Internal Medicine, as well as Oncology.  I want to say up front that I didn’t choose to become a doctor for the money, because, obviously, that would be stupid, but I also don’t want to be paying off my loans for the rest of my life.  And money is definitely going to be a factor that plays into my decision-making.

The good news is, this isn’t my problem.  It’s Future Emily’s problem.  And boy does that girl have a lot on her plate.

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About emilyehoward

My name is Emily, and I am a first year Internal Medicine Resident in Phoenix, Arizona. I live with my husband Nicholas and my daughter Anika. And I hope you enjoy my blog!
This entry was posted in Doctor, Health Care, Medical Student, Medicine, Osteopathy, Physician and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Future Emily

  1. Sam says:

    Hi Emily, congratulations on completing your first year of med school. Thank you for providing such a thoughtful perspective on the stresses med students face.

  2. Allie says:

    I feel completely terrified of that impending debt, too! (And on multiple occasions, it’s almost discouraged me from pursuing medicine…) Though correct me if I’m wrong – I think that, as long as you work for a non-profit hospital/org and you make your loan payments every month (either income-based or full amounts), all debts will be forgiven after 10 years. This is really great if you can get your residency/fellowship at a non-profit, too. That’s what I’m hoping for, at least!

  3. Karen says:

    Hang in there Emily, I am sure God has a hand in this so yes, be aware and frugal but also trust that He has a way for you

  4. TrishaDM says:

    It is brutal, isn’t it? I hate looking at loan statements for that reason.
    The good thing is that during residency, you at least make enough to not further add to that debt (most of the time). I have been told by people (who I presume to be wise) that if you are aware of your debt at this point in your life, it is less likely to become insurmountable, even though it looks terrifying now. I sure hope that is true.

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